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Kansas Federal Court Awards Prisoner $250,000 for Guard’s Excessive Force

by Matt Clarke 

On December 7, 2018, a federal district court awarded a Kansas Department of Corrections (DOC) prisoner $250,000 in a lawsuit over a guard’s excessive use of force. 

Wesley L. Adkins filed a pro se civil rights action after he was assaulted by DOC guard Marshal Manning. Manning failed to answer the complaint or otherwise defend himself. The district court granted Adkins’ motion for default judgment on the issue of liability and held a hearing on damages. Following the hearing, Adkins was awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages.

In its memorandum and order, the court wrote that Adkins was held in a segregation unit at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility on March 27, 2015 when he went to the morning exercise yard. Prisoners in segregation were allowed to shower each day, but had to sign up on a list. An exception existed for prisoners who went to recreation, who received a mandatory shower after recreation time. 

When Adkins finished recreating, the duty officer told him he would be placed on the afternoon shower list. Manning worked the afternoon shift and called out for the showers, but, when Adkins told him he was supposed to be on the list, Manning said he wasn’t and refused to let him shower or listen to his attempts to clarify the issue. 

Later, Adkins explained the situation to another guard who handcuffed him and led him to the showers. There he encountered Manning, who was argumentative and irritated that Adkins had been allowed to take a shower. 

Once Adkins had showered and while he was dressed only in his underwear, the other guard handcuffed him and began escorting him back to his cell. They encountered Manning, a large man known as a mixed martial arts fighter. Surveillance video captured Adkins saying something to Manning, who punched Adkins in the face. Manning then pushed Adkins to the concrete floor, continued punching him, spit on him and placed him in a chokehold. Manning put his foot on a railing to gain leverage and pin Adkins down while choking him. 

The other guard ordered Manning to stop, but was ignored. Finally, two more guards arrived and pried Manning off Adkins. 

The attack, while brief, caused both physical and emotional injuries. Adkins received medical treatment for abrasions on his face and lip, as well as an ankle injury. Photos taken after the incident showed a thick stream of blood flowing down the side of his face and ear. Adkins was denied an X-ray of his ankle, which was swollen for two days after the attack and, years later, still caused him pain.

Adkins said he also suffered from fear, anguish and anxiety caused by the assault. He submitted a grievance over the incident and was subsequently charged with insubordination and battery in a disciplinary report filed by Manning. He was ultimately acquitted of the disciplinary charges, but spent months housed in a cell with greater restrictions than segregation and had his stay in segregation lengthened due to the charges. Adkins sought mental health treatment for depression, stress and confusion resulting from his being assaulted and then punished despite having done nothing wrong. 

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Julie A. Robinson found that the physical and mental injuries caused by Manning’s attack when Adkins was “in a truly helpless position” justified an award of the full amount of damages that Adkins requested – $250,000. A bill of costs in the case remains pending. See: Adkins v. Manning, U.S.D.C. (D. Kan.), Case No. 5:15-cv-03215-JAR-KGG. 

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Related legal case

Adkins v. Manning